The End of the Line


Gripping and suspenseful, this powerful, no-holds-barred novel by an exciting new talent goes deep inside a young boy's mind. Thirteen-year-old Robbie is locked in a room with nothing but a desk, a chair, a piece of paper, and a pencil. He's starving, but all they'll give him is water. He is sure he's in a nuthouse or a prison. Actually, he's at Great Oaks School, aka the End of the Line. Kept in solitary confinement, Robbie must earn points for food, a bed, even bathroom privileges. He must learn to listen ...

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Gripping and suspenseful, this powerful, no-holds-barred novel by an exciting new talent goes deep inside a young boy's mind. Thirteen-year-old Robbie is locked in a room with nothing but a desk, a chair, a piece of paper, and a pencil. He's starving, but all they'll give him is water. He is sure he's in a nuthouse or a prison. Actually, he's at Great Oaks School, aka the End of the Line. Kept in solitary confinement, Robbie must earn points for food, a bed, even bathroom privileges. He must learn to listen carefully, to follow the rules, and to accept and admit the truth: he is a murderer. Robbie's first-person account of his struggles at the school—at times horrifying, at times hilarious—alternates with flashbacks to the events that led to his incarceration. Ultimately he must confront the question: which is worse—that he wanted to kill his friend Ryan or that he killed him by accident?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
First-time author Cerrito delivers a tale of crime, punishment, and self-discovery driven by subtle characterizations and simmering tensions. When chronic troublemaker Robbie Thompson ends up at Great Oaks School, it’s because he’s run out of chances. Now, stripped of all luxuries, he has to earn everything from fresh clothes and a shower to decent food and real conversation. And to do that, he must examine his life, his choices, and his mistakes. Robbie’s story unfolds in clipped sections that alternate between his present incarceration and flashbacks that center on his difficulties in school; his close ties to his uncle Grant, who is serving in Iraq; and particularly his intense relationship with his troubled friend Ryan—all of which culminate in a murder that still haunts him. Cerrito touches on themes of poverty, child abuse, and the psychology of violence, but refrains from drawing concrete conclusions—a narrative choice that may frustrate readers who crave definitive answers. Nevertheless, she portrays Robbie’s wobbly path to redemption with a persuasive blend of humor, desperation, and painful observation. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)
ALAN Review - Kim Coyle
"Ryan was dead, and I was a murderer," claims 13-year-old Robbie in his first-person account of his struggle at Great Oaks School for juvenile delinquents. Robbie is cold and hungry; however, the only way to get food and blankets is to earn points. He must follow all of the rules, listen to the adults, and come to grips with why he is in solitary confinement. Through flashbacks and his lists of identifying qualities, Robbie tells his tale of how he became incarcerated. The End of the Line is a powerful and suspenseful tale that asks the reader to confront these questions: did Robbie mean to kill his friend Ryan or did he kill him by accident? No matter how you answer the question, you continually want to sympathize with Robbie and the miserable, horrifying circumstances in which he finds himself. Reviewer: Kim Coyle
VOYA - Lynne Farrell Stover
Thirteen-year-old Robbie Thompson begins his story from "the end of the line" at Great Oaks School, which he refers to as a prison. Here he will earn the privilege to eat, shower, and wear shoes while learning crucial life lessons. With chapters alternating between the misery of the present and the circumstances from the past that caused him to be institutionalized, the reader discovers a great deal about a good kid who is suffering incomprehensible guilt. His loving parents, war-damaged uncle, and school friends are not going to be able to help him resolve the fact that he feels responsible for the death of Ryan, a troubled boy who has lived a tragic life. Robbie's pain is caustic, and he must learn how to neutralize it. The author does an outstanding job of revealing compelling and complex characters through Robbie's narrative. His age- and gender-appropriate observations go from poignant to clueless, and are sometimes hilarious. The reader is able to feel his isolation and fear. This book would work well as a class read-aloud or literature circle title. Social situations ranging from the war in Iraq to children living in poverty would make for timely and meaningful class discussions. The author realistically circumvents the use of bad language by making it a rule of Robbie's counselor, Mr. Lester, that his charges use the word "firecracker" in place of swear words. Robbie's story has the potential to make young people think, care, and possibly change. Reviewer: Lynne Farrell Stover
School Library Journal
Gr 6–8—"The end of the line" for Robbie Thompson is Great Oaks School, a juvenile-detention center of last resort, where he has been placed after being thrown out of several similar facilities. In alternating chapters, the 13-year-old describes his current existence at Great Oaks and the events that led to his being institutionalized; he readily admits killing his friend Ryan and is forced to confront the effect that deed has had on his life. The author attempts to do a great deal in the novel, perhaps too much, with the result that neither the characters nor the situations seem fully developed. The fatal encounter takes place at a construction site with which Ryan has become obsessed, for reasons never adequately explained. The fight is over Ryan's theft of Robbie's uncle's Purple Heart, which he earned in Iraq, in an incident in which he lost an arm and a leg. Ryan seems to have been motivated, at least in part, by jealousy over the medals that Robbie won for long-distance running. Controversy over the war and Robbie's involvement in running form much of the backdrop of the story, but neither they nor the other numerous subplots are well integrated into the narrative. Perhaps the novel's biggest difficulty, however, is Robbie's very likability. He just doesn't come across as the angry, tortured, incorrigible youth he is supposed to be. For a much more gripping, focused look at an adolescent attempting to come to terms with his responsibility for a horrific act, direct readers to Gail Giles's outstanding Right Behind You (Little, Brown, 2007).—Richard Luzer, Fair Haven Union High School, VT
Kirkus Reviews
This riveting debut opens with seventh-grader Robbie Thompson locked in solitary confinement at Great Oaks School (or Prison, as Robbie refers to it), where he's forced to meet required behavioral expectations to gain even basic needs. Readers soon learn that he's been placed at the "end of the line" after violent outbursts at four other alternative schools—and that he killed his friend Ryan. Short, quick-paced chapters, some only one page long, alternate between Robbie's time in school/prison and past events that led up to Ryan's death. There are no black-and-white issues here; Ryan is not a likable kid. After Robbie, a respectful and diligent son and student whose favorite pastime is building a model town with his Uncle Grant, stands up to the bullying Ryan receives on his first day in their sixth grade, Ryan ingratiates himself with Robbie's family. While Robbie's parents see an impoverished boy who lives with his elderly grandparents, Robbie realizes that Ryan is evasive, manipulative and a liar. Adding to his growing hatred is a (little overblown) tyrant of a teacher who wrongfully casts Robbie as the troublemaker of the class. A demanding Great Oaks leader, group therapy with teens years ahead of him and analogies to Uncle Grant's difficult choices as a soldier in Iraq help Robbie find responsibility and acceptance. A thought-provoking look at culpability and grief. (Fiction. 12-15)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823422876
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/23/2011
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,406,026
  • Age range: 12 - 15 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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